Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe – Benjamin Alire Saenz

“I got to thinking that poems were like people. Some people you got right off the bat. Some people you just didn’t get–and never would get.”

aristotle and dante

Synopsis from GoodreadsAristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship–the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.

Feelings: I’ve been thinking about reading this book for a while, but I’ve been hesitant because it’s gotten so much hype. I was worried I may not love it as much as other people have. But then I saw that the audiobook is narrated by Lin-Manuel Miranda, of Broadway’s Hamilton fame. I freaking love him and I immediately downloaded the audiobook. He has such a great voice and I really enjoyed listening to him.

I don’t typically read books about boys. Judge me, if you will, but I usually can’t connect to them or even really get into them. This book was different, though. The journey that we went on with Ari was captivating. When I wasn’t reading or listening, it was like I was worried about him, wondering if he was ok. Does that ever happen to you? That’s a testament to the beautiful writing.

Issues: Even with that, I didn’t necessarily love this book. I thought the characters were all well written and complex, but it really didn’t have a storyline, in the classic sense. We weren’t really building up to one point or scene and the big moment of understanding was in the last couple of pages. It’s different from almost anything else I’ve read, which is nice to see. But again, I wasn’t crazy moved by it, like some others were.

Characters: Because it takes place in the 1980’s, we see the aftermath of the Vietnam War on a former soldier and his family. Aristotle’s parents both had some past struggles that he needed them to flesh out for him, allowing him to grow and face his own issues. I really appreciated their honesty and willingness to be open with Ari. Dante’s parents were different from Ari’s, but also had a great dynamic. While the parents had issues, this wasn’t a teen vs parent story, which was a nice change up. This is a story about accepting others and accepting yourself and parent/teen angst would have taken away from that message.

Final thoughts: I’m glad that I read this! I thought the perspective and story structure was unique and interesting. I think it might be a tiny bit over-hyped, but that’s life. I think for a lot of people, this is a powerful narrative, showing us that it’s okay to be you, whoever you may be. This book could certainly help those that struggle with who they are and how others perceive them.

Pick this up if you liked:

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

Goodreads rating: 4.33/5

Amazon.com rating: 4.6/5

My rating: 4.25/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

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10 thoughts on “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe – Benjamin Alire Saenz

  1. I’ve seen plenty of people rave about this book, but like you, I’ve been hesitant to read it.

    Btw, what kind of YA is it? Contemporary? Fantasy? I’m a Classicist and so of course the name Aristotle (and Dante, although not Greek/Roman), catches my attention. But I’m not sure–other than for some thematic or philosophical themes–that it has much to do with fantasy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s contemporary! The characters have the names Aristotle and Dante and it has themes on life and purpose, but that’s as far as those references go. It’s not fantasy at all. It’s good ol’ contemporary YA fiction. Give it a chance! You may really enjoy it! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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